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“Marketers no longer control their brand, people do.”

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Erik Deckers has been blogging since 1997, and has been a published writer for more than 24 years. Erik has also been a newspaper humor columnist for 17 years, and is published in 10 newspapers around Indiana. He is also an award-winning playwright, both for stage and radio theatre.

Erik co-authored Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (Pearson, 2010). Erik frequently speaks about blogging and social media, especially as it relates to personal branding, small business marketing, crisis communication, and citizen journalism.

Professional Blog Service is a blogging and social media agency that helps other companies maintain a presence online.

Erik Deckers, Professional Blog Service, Co-Owner & VP of Creative Services

MO: What initially got you interested in blogging?

Erik: I first started publishing my newspaper humor column on my website, posting each new column by hand. When I heard about blogging software back in 1999 or so, I thought it sounded stupid, and continued to take an extra hour each week just to put my new column on my website. Fast forward four years, when someone actually showed me how blogging software actually worked. What took me an hour could get done in 5 minutes. I was hooked. I started my humor blog on blogger, and have been using it ever since. I still publish my column there every Friday morning

MO: How can maintaining a blog increase revenue for a business?

Erik:A blog does several things for business: it helps you win search. It helps you solve problems for customers. It helps you gain new customers, because they are searching for solutions to problems, and your blog is a chance to showcase what you know.

MO: What do you most enjoy writing about? How different is the creative process from writing a blog or a book, to writing a newspaper column or a play?

Erik: I most enjoy writing humor. If something I write makes me laugh, I know I hit the mark. But the creative process is not that different — writing is writing. It’s work. It’s not notebooks in coffee shops, where you get to journal your feelings into a poem. It’s about slogging it out, even when you don’t feel like writing.

Having said that, there are certain moods I need to be in to write one thing or another. If I’m feeling sad, humor is harder to write, or it even comes out sarcastic and biting. And I have to be in the mood to write a play, but I rarely have to be in the mood to write nonfiction. I do that all the time, so I’m always ready to go.

MO: Can you give us some highlights from your book, “No Bullshit Social Media”?

Erik: There are a few things. For one, this is not a how to book at all. This won’t tell you tips and secrets that every other social media book has. Rather, this is a book to tell corporate executives and business owners how they can use social media to make money. So we discuss the 7 business drivers where social media can actually help companies make money — marketing, sales, PR, and even customer service. We also discuss several case studies to show where businesses have succeeded with social media, and others have been caught unawares and were completely hammered by social media and then by traditional media.

MO: What are some ways that a business can use social media to invent or reinvent their selves?

Erik: First, understand this: Marketers no longer control their brand, people do. What people say about a company soon becomes that company’s brand. If people say your coffee house is great, because you roast your own beans and have free wifi, then you’re a great coffee house. If people say your oil company is evil, because it launched an inadequate response to an oil spill in a major body of water, then you’re an evil oil company.

This means that people are no longer trusting the marketing professionals — the people who were educated, trained, and are now paid to tell us what to think about a company — to tell us what to think about a product. We’re telling each other what we think, and we’re using those recommendations to make decisions on what to buy, what to watch, where to eat, what to read.

So if businesses want to reinvent themselves, they need to listen to what people are talking about, and then respond in a helpful and valuable manner. Go out of the way to help people solve their problems, and pretty soon, you’re the expert and the go-to company for that problem. Eventually, your name can become synonymous with that solution.

If you run a computer repair shop, rather than telling people over and over, “We fix computers! We fix computers!” provide solutions. Set up a listening post on Twitter for certain keywords, like “broken printer.” Then when someone tweets that their printer is broken, point them to a blog post you wrote about how to troubleshoot a broken printer. When someone says a key on their keyboard is broken, point them to the YouTube video you created about how to clean and unstick a key.

MO: Where did your passion for writing come from? Who or what were your early influences and inspirations?

Erik: I don’t know where it exactly came from. I’ve just always been able to write. It started in college, when I would turn in papers I would bang out the night before they would do, and score an A. It always used to piss off my classmates who would work for a week on a paper, and get a hard-earned B. I always assumed everyone could write. But as I learned I was actually good at it, I actually started paying attention to it, trying to improve it, and get better.

My early (and later) inspirations have all been funny, outlandish, or completely awesome writers — Kurt Vonnegut, Dave Barry, Hunter S. Thompson, Christopher Moore, and Ernest Hemingway. Even today, I read some of their work and see if there’s anything I can glean from them. And even after 24 years of being a writer, I still find there’s an awful lot to learn from them.

Even now, I am still learning and improving. I still read my favorite writers, and try to read as much writing advice as I can. I pay particular attention to certain websites and  for ways to improve.

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